After weeks and months of not only marketing and promotion, but also controversies and a leaked video showing a certain feud, it’s finally here: American Idol season 12 premieres tonight with the start of the auditions in New York (and Chicago on Thursday). Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj join Randy Jackson at the judging panel for the first time.

Roundup: Nigel Lythgoe on Season 12 Changes and Copying X Factor >>>

And while much of the buzz lately has been on them, let’s not forget that singing competition shows should be mostly about the contestants. So let’s preview this week’s premiere with full clips of auditioners singing for the judges. First, it’s Tenna Torres singing “You’ve Got a Friend,” and Mariah’s definitely feeling it.

But as we know from the audition rounds, you can’t have the good without the bad. “I sing in my room,” James Bae says, “thinking it’s a concert so I’ll get ready for the real one. And I know what the audience wants. And they don’t just want a singer, they want a character.” Here’s James with Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl”:

Next up, we’ve got “Try A Little Tenderness.” And this guy’s got a very nice tone to his voice and a beautiful falsetto. I’m sure the girls will be all over him.

Check out Nicki and Mariah’s reactions during this audition of “Downtown.” Priceless.

And of course, it wouldn’t be American Idol without a White Guy With Guitar. I’m just glad they’re not allowed to use instruments during their auditions.

Did anyone else notice that he only has one real leg? There’ll be an emotional backstory to him, for sure.

This next preview video, which clocks in at three minutes, doesn’t reveal much in the way of the singers, but it still gets us pumped up for the new season, and we get to see the judges’ reactions, comments and amusing facial expressions. Seeing Keith Urban fall out of his chair is hilarious. And one singer says to Nicki, “You better shut yo mouth.” Check it out below.

Finally, the cast are making the talk show rounds to promote season 12. Nicki Minaj was on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and revealed some interesting behind the scenes scoop on how she dealt with sitting through all the auditions. Once she sat down at the table, she didn’t want to get up to use the restroom. What would’ve happened if she left the room? See what she said to Ellen about it below. (Also brought up during the interview: Nicki’s worried about the live shows — will there be another blowup?)

This interview may be the best one from any of the judges so far because Nicki isn’t dodging any of the feud questions; she may look uncomfortable answering them, but she faces them straight on. And she also let us in on how eye-opening the auditions were and what she’s having fun with and what she’s not looking forward to.

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(Images courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.